West Platte knew replacing Nealie Niemeier would be a big job. With two other players not back, the Bluejays have even more work to do.
Niemeier led West Platte in scoring throughout a 10-14 season that ended with a 58-55 loss to Northland Christian in the Class 2 District 15 first round. The Bluejays also dealt with injuries and now must combine limited returners to try and find a combination to keep up last year’s winning ways.
West Platte won double digit games for the first time in more than a decade.
“We need some more scoring threats,” West Platte coach Jennifer Lawson said. “We lost Nealie who pretty much led with scoring last year for us so we’re going to have to have some other girls step up and look to score and actually accomplish that and really be able to points up on the board.”
West Platte junior Hannah McGivern and sophomore Faith Stevens also won’t be back due to ACL injuries.
Lawson expects senior Karen Knox to take over Stevens’ role at point guard after she missed all of last season due to injury. West Platte senior Rachel Heili and junior Lea Moose both averaged about 5 points and 4 rebounds per game and now will be the only starters back.
Emily Norman (senior) and Tori Norman (sophomore) will have bigger roles for the Bluejays along with senior Sydney Sweden, junior Amanda Lowell and freshman Lexi Smither.
“Lea will be an impact player,” Lawson said. “She’s more aggressive and stronger this year than she ever has been. Emily Norman might surprise a few people. She gets aggressive, and last year, we saw more of that at the end of the season. I’m hoping she’s ready to pull that off for a whole game and step it up.”
Niemeier, Alexa Raney and Alex Roe were the lone seniors for West Platte, which had a three-game winning streak and a 2-5 record in KCI Conference play. The Bluejays also won three games in the league tournament during the past two seasons, including a third-place showing a year ago.
Prior to the 2015 edition of the tournament, West Platte hadn’t won any games in the event in a decade, and the Bluejays beat North Platte in the opening round last year for their first win against their chief rival in 16 years.
“I think it is if we want to keep getting better,” Lawson said. “We want to compete as always, but we have to set different goals so that we can enjoy a long season.”